Sorry this is late...but I'm still experiencing difficulties posting. When I contacted Boston.com, I was told that they were aware of the problem, and were taking steps to fix it. This led me to wonder whether the folks setting up this "system" are the same people who set up the Obamacare web cite...LOL!!!
Wow...another great weekend for Boston sports fans! The DH-less Red Sox go to St. Louis and take two out of three to gain a 3-2 WS advantage, as the teams head back to our beloved Fenway Park. Coupled with the Patriots come from behind 27-17 win over Miami , and you have a weekend similar to that of two weekends ago, when the Patriots came from behind to defeat the then unbeaten Saints...and the Red Sox avoided disaster thanks to a Big Papi grand slam, in tying up their ALCS series, with the Detroit Tigers.
Folks, it's difficult to assign grades to the Patriots when they are terrible for half the game, but play well in the other half. So...with the expectation that they'll be plenty of disagreements, here are my grades:
I. OFFENSE: This group was horrible in the first half...as bad as their second half stink bombs that we've seen in Cincinnati, and in NY. Still, if not for a couple of defensive take-aways and a couple of favorable calls from the usually hostile refs, the second half might not have been much of an improvement.
1.) QB: No...Tom Brady skills are not deteriorating due to old age. His accuracy is clearly being impacted by a badly swollen passing hand. With BB in charge and Tom not even acknowledging the obvious injury, one has to wonder just how bad it is. Is he playing though a broken finger? Did he fracture a knuckle or something? In the land of Brady and BB, we'll never know. Folks, Tom threw for 25 yards in the first half!! His first pass of the game to Rob Gronkowski was poorly thrown to Gronk's inside shoulder, and was intercepted. Subsequent to the play, Brady was shown flexing his passing hand, and keeping it warm inside the pouch of his jersey. For the game, Tom finished with just 116 yards passing, completing just 13 0f 22 passes. Still, Brady has his moments. There was that beautiful 14 yard TD pass to Aaron Dobson, Which Tom completed despite having a LB in his grill, a 30 yard TD laser to Gronk, which was nullified due to a Nate Solder holding penalty...and a clutch 8 yard "Crazy Legs" Hirsch-like scramble on a 4th and 4 in the 4th quarter, which kept the Pats' final TD drive alive. Let's hope that Tom's hand injury is something that will heal very soon. I give Tom an "A" for his toughness and grit. But, his overall play merits only a generous: GRADE: C;
2.) RBs: Did well when called upon and when given some running room, particularly in the second half. Stevan Ridley ran hard and hit the available holes decisively, finishing with 79 yards on 14 carries, and a TD (a 5.6 yard average per carry). LeGarrette Blount bulled for 46 yards on 11 carries, while Brandon Bolden chipped in with 22 yards on 8 carries, and a TD. None of the RBs were factors in the passing game. All must do a better job regarding blitz pick-ups: GRADE: B;
3.) OL: This group continued to underachieve, particularly in the first half. The usually reliable Nate Solder and Logan Mankins were beaten for sacks, and Ryan Wendell is still having problems holding up in pass protection. But, in the second half, the Big Uglies got after the Miami front seven, and began to open up running lanes for Stevan Ridley and Blount. Unfortunately, RT Sebastien Vollmer was lost for the season due to having suffered a broken leg. We wish him the best, and a full recovery: GRADE: C;
4.) TEs and WRs: Gronk and "The Hoo-man" did a good job of blocking on running plays. But, the Dolphins doubled and even triple-teamed Gronk throughout the game, in an effort to take away Tom Brady's best and favorite weapon. Though Gronk was held to a mere two receptions for 27 yards, the excessive coverage delegated to him helped to free up WR Aaron Dobson (4 catches for 60 yards, and a TD). No one else did much of anything. For the second week in a row, Kembrell Thompkins was the Invisible Man...and Danny Amendola continues to make us pine over the loss of Wes Welker: GRADE: D+;
II. DEFENSE: After being pushed around via the Miami ground game in the first half, this crew stiffened considerably, forced three turnovers (a sack-fumble and two interceptions), and shut the Dolphins out in the second half.
1.) DL: After allowing Miami RBs Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas to combine for 136 yards on 27 carries (the majority of yards being gained in the first half), the DL, with the assistance of ILBs Dont'a Hightower and Brandon Spikes, were able to shut the run down, until the offense scored enough points to force the 'Fins into passing on nearly every play. The Jones Boys had 13 tackles, including seven solos...with Chris Jones registering a sack and a pair of TFLs. Rob Ninkovich was disruptive, registering a sack, a huge fumble recovery after the Logan Ryan third quarter strip sack (discussed more thoroughly below)...along with a trio of QB hits: GRADE: B-;
2.) LBs: ILBs Dont'a Hightower and Brandon Spikes combined for 19 tackles (9 solos), a sack, and three TFL. Dane Fletcher added a sack, and was effective in pass coverage. Constant blitzing in the second half clearly rattled Miami QB Ryan Tannehill. Rookie Jamie Collins was awful, and was pulled in the second half: GRADE: B;
3.) SECONDARY: Despite being Talib-less again, this unit had one of it's best games of the season. It was the beneficiary of a steady diet of second half blitzes, one in which rookie CB Logan Ryan came through with a strip sack, which lead to a game tying TD. For the game, Ryan amassed five tackles (all solos), and a pair of sacks. Credit safety Devin McCourty for his heady play in batting a errant Tannehill pass that was headed out of bounds to CB Marquise Coles in the 4th quarter...which lead to the Patriots marching down field for a TD, and a 27-17 lead. For the game, the Pats held Miami to a mere 192 yards passing...and got back 47 of those thanks to six (6) sacks: GRADE: A;
III. SPECIAL TEAMS: The Ghost was special once more, nailing two more FGs, including a 48 yarder. Good job once again on kick-offs as well. Credit Chandler Jones for a 4th quarter blocked FG, that kept the game a two score game...and all but ended Miami's chances of winning. Ryan Allen continues to do a solid job of punting. The kick return game was not a factor for either team: GRADE: A;
IV. COAHING: After that lathargic first half, credit BB for some locker room butt kicking, and for some key adjustments. Chief among these was the decision to blitz Ryan Tannehill repeatedly...which resulted in six (6) sacks and two key turnovers. On offense, the decision to accent the running game paid off, particularly in the 4th quarter. But something was obviously wrong with Tom Brady's passing hand, that no adjustment could fix: GRADE: B+;
V. PLAY OF THE GAME: This game turned on the Logan Ryan strip sack in the third quarter.
VI. PLAYER OF THE GAME: CB Logan Ryan.
Here are the game stats: http://espn.go.com/nfl/boxscore?gameId=331027017
As always, your comments and opinions are welcome. Have a great day!